This year’s first presidential debate arrives Friday at the University of Mississippi.
The first such televised debate happened in 1960 between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy.
Those who heard the debate on radio overwhelmingly believed that Republican Nixon had won. But of those who watched via that era’s black-and-white television, a majority was swayed to vote for Kennedy, who because of Chicago’s voting graveyards, narrowly stole the presidency.
With what has come to light during the past 48 years, we now can see how Kennedy and his media allies won this debate.
In his book "Presidential Debates: Fifty Years of High-Risk TV," Northeastern University Journalism Professor Alan Schroeder describes how Kennedy and Nixon jointly had refused makeup, but before the debate began, “unknown to Nixon, Kennedy got a touch-up [i.e., makeup] from his own people.”
Nixon, years later, recounted how he and his staff had been misled about the debate stage lighting, the color of its background (lightened by repainting on debate day), and hence the color of suit, shirt, and necktie he should wear. On that set, wrote media historian Erik Barnouw, Nixon appeared “haggard; the lines on his face seemed like gashes and gave a fearful look.”
Kennedy was not misled. His makeup and clothing were perfectly coordinated to make him look like a TV star.
CBS director-producer Don Hewitt’s camera shots during the debate also outraged a Nixon aide in the control room. Whenever Kennedy spoke, the camera tended to stay on him. When Nixon spoke, the cameras often cut away to show Kennedy’s reaction, distracting viewers from what the Republican was saying.
Hewitt gave Kennedy 39 percent more time in such reaction shots than he gave to Nixon’s reactions when Kennedy was speaking.
Hewitt later created and controlled the highly-rated CBS show “60 Minutes.”
In 1992, another Democratic presidential candidate won with Hewitt’s help. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was sinking amid rumors of marital infidelity when Hewitt offered him and his wife Hillary an interview to air moments after that year’s Super Bowl on CBS, the primest of prime airtime worth more than a million dollars per minute.
Then-Clinton hatchet man George Stephanopoulos, who now anchors ABC’s Sunday show “This Week,” recounted what he witnessed at this “60 Minutes” videotaping in his memoir "All Too Human: A Political Education": “Don Hewitt . . . told the Clintons how he’d made John Kennedy president by producing the debates in 1960 and said he could do the same for them.”
In this interview, America saw Bill Clinton call his mistress Gennifer Flowers a "liar," and heard suburban Chicago-raised Hillary in a fake Southern accent speak loyally at her husband’s side. This Oscar-worthy performance enabled Clinton to eke out a second-place finish days later in New Hampshire, proclaim himself "the comeback kid," and go on to win the White House.
What Americans were not told was that the Clintons knew in advance the questions they would be asked.
The Clintons had also been promised that if they disliked the way a "take" was going, they, like prima donna Hollywood stars, could halt the videotaping and do a new take — or three, four, whatever the Clintons needed to sound and appear the way they wanted to.
Don Hewitt gave the Clintons their own free $20 million TV commercial. CBS dishonestly broadcast this Clinton infomercial to the nation disguised as an honest news interview.
And last Sunday, the “60 Minutes” that Hewitt shaped and staffed was up to its old dirty tricks, pretending to be even-handed while smearing Republican moderate candidate John McCain and promoting the Chicago’s Democratic machine’s left-liberal candidate Barack Obama.
In CBS’s softball Obama interview by Steve Kroft — the same lapdog Hewitt used in the 1992 Clinton infomercial — Obama was repeatedly pictured before adoring, cheering crowds.
CBS even showed him embracing an African-American woman who “wanted to tell Obama that she had just lost her husband of 70 years, and that he tried to live long enough to vote for him.”
Whenever Obama spoke, Kroft let him orate almost uninterrupted. After merely mentioning that Obama had “never run anything,” Kroft left unchallenged Obama’s dishonest retort that “if the question is executive experience, then Senator McCain and I are on equal footing.”
In fact, McCain commanded the largest fighter squadron in the U.S. Navy, but viewers would never know this from CBS.
By contrast, the McCain interview was conducted by attack dog Scott Pelley, notorious for his one-sided alarmist global warming reporting. When asked why he unethically refused to interview anyone with contrary views, Pelley snidely dismissed warming skeptics as “Holocaust deniers.”
More than 22,000 scientists, including MIT’s chief atmospheric scientist, have signed a petition expressing skepticism about Al Gore-like, Pelley-like climate alarmism.
CBS showed McCain not with friendly crowds like Obama, but alone facing a bright interrogation light that made him appear white and pasty, and made him blink or look away. The result was like the recent Atlantic Monthly cover of McCain that — its Obama-supporting photographer boasted — was taken using tricky techniques to make McCain look ugly.
Pelley repeatedly interrupted McCain’s answers with accusatory statements. “Can you see [your running mate Sarah Palin] as president of the United States?” he demanded repeatedly in a mocking, incredulous tone.
Palin is governor of America’s largest state and commander in chief of Alaska’s National Guard, with 80 percent popularity among voters who know her. Why didn’t Kroft similarly press his question about Obama’s utter lack of executive experience?
While Pelley goaded McCain with questions about his father’s alcoholism, McCain’s youthful drinking and now-advanced age, Kroft’s friendly questioning of Obama left many things unasked and unanswered.
Kroft never asked Obama about his own acknowledged-but-undefined youthful drug use; his friend-attested worshipping as a Muslim in an Indonesian mosque; his associations with radicals, including a violent domestic terrorist; his profiting from a convicted criminal in Chicago; or Obama’s broken written promise to take only ethically-clean public campaign funding.
Get ready for lots more of usual mainstream media left-wing duplicity to help Obama during and after Friday’s presidential debate.
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